On a summer’s afternoon, I’ve spent time making lunch and then preparing for dinner for a friend who’s staying over this evening. Waking up at 7:30 am, I have absent-mindedly brushed my teeth to indie songs on my phone, taken a quick shower, made myself an iced coffee and listened to half a podcast. Like most days. All in all, I haven’t left home in about 19 days now. I mean, I have stepped out of my door to take the garbage out and I can tell from my window that it hasn’t been raining. But I’m not sure if the construction on the road to my apartment complex has ended yet; I’m not certain the elevator is working, if there is a taxi strike or if suddenly there has been a zombie outbreak and everyone I know has died. I am not in tune with the world outside or myself lately.
I am about to turn 23 years old this June and I’ve spent a majority of these years feeling very, very unhappy and scared. Over cups of coffee in restaurants, cross-legged on my bed while looking for something interesting to watch on Netflix, in social media posts, in a forty-five-minute talk about vulnerability and mental illness to college students – in telling and retelling my childhood, at some point, it started to become just a story. Instead of seeing it as real years spent in deep fear, I started to look at it as a plot to a film that I watched many years ago. I wish trauma was just a film I could cry over for a few hours and later forget about. Sadly, in reality, trauma stays with you for a long time until it is acknowledged, understood and processed.
Sitting in my bed this evening as the sun softens in the sky – here, things are not okay. The unwavering hopelessness in my head is convincing me that nothing is going to be alright.
Thankfully, in a wonderful turn of events when I realised I was not okay, I ended up in therapy during my senior year in high school. I was diagnosed with PTSD, with some signs of SPD and suddenly I had a clear direction to making a good life for myself. And so I followed where therapy took me – constructive journaling, building healthier coping skills, identifying triggers and advocating mental health. The nights of insomnia and suicidal thoughts became channelling my anxious energy into writing, destructive emotional responses became clear communication and helplessness turned into patience. After several years, I know I’m in a considerably better place and surrounded by nourishing people and media.
Yet, here I am in this familiar place of “doom” once again. Last week I was tending to a friend who had just been through a panic attack and had come to stay with me for a few days. She was tender, sensitive and I was equipped to provide her with tea, warmth, time and conversations to help her find clarity. All the while, I quietly dealt with this mind-numbing depression churning in my stomach. I have often found myself in the other end of “I really need to talk to someone right now” And oftentimes, I have been in the position to listen. My mental illness makes me a person who understands compassion, self-awareness and keeps herself informed about mental health. I like being the person who can help you navigate through a bad phase.
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But deep in depression for many weeks now, I have found myself very alone. I have tried my grounding techniques, meditation and coping mechanisms. But that’s the thing about being in the middle of severely bad mental health – nothing can convince you that you aren’t utterly broken. I have been neglecting work and physical health, doubting my creativity, stressing over every small thing and spiralling into a dark place of negativity, self-destruction and no motivation. Staying home for 19 days is not romantic, it’s not a beautiful story of a troubled artist who in the end overcomes her hurdles – it’s ugly. Having no social interaction for weeks because you are wallowing in your depression is – constant back pains, not brushing for days, not changing into fresh clothes, headaches and a lot of “what’s the point in this?”. As someone who does not have a conventional family system and hardly has any concrete social attachments, I majorly depend on my sister for help and emotional support. Now when she isn’t emotionally available due to work and life, I don’t know where to go. I am struggling to find the resources I need. All these years, I have learnt to give help but I am not sure how to ask for it. In all honesty, I am not even sure what will help.
This piece of writing does not have a happy ending, it does not particularly have a sad ending either. I guess it’s just an attempt at being honest about how “not okay” I am.
When the people in your life look up to you as a “mental health role model” it’s difficult to come out as a person who just feels defeated and broken. A person who cannot be there to help right now. The truth about mental illness is that it’s an ongoing process – at times you are functioning and in control, and sometimes the irrational thoughts take over and you feel like you don’t really have control. But the popular and glorified narrative of “overcoming mental illness” is quite problematic – in reality, the conversation matters the most when one’s in the thick of it. I have made great progress in understanding my patterns and working through trauma. I am a mental health advocate and firmly believe in educating the people around me about mental illness. But I am not and have never wanted to be a role model. I struggle with toxic behaviour, do the wrong things, self-destruct and have spent weeks isolating myself and not reaching out.
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Because I have been here before, I know that sooner or later I will find clarity, peace and solutions. I understand I will be in a better place. But that’s not what this is about. This is about now. Sitting in my bed this evening as the sun softens in the sky – here, things are not okay. The unwavering hopelessness in my head is convincing me that nothing is going to be alright and that I am taking all the wrong turns in life. This piece of writing does not have a happy ending, it does not particularly have a sad ending either. I guess it’s just an attempt at being honest about how “not okay” I am. I am not sure how to receive help but I’m working on it and it’s exhausting. So, if you’re reading this maybe ask me how I am. Tell me about something that makes you happy in the world. Tell me you know this will work out in the grand scheme of things. And I will try to accept your kindness.
I hope you are well.
Featured Image Credits: Marie Caulliez/Alamy
Hey hope you’re doing okay after writing this. This writing has been my coping mechanism for years even though I never post it. I can relate to your story in many ways. There is a time I hadn’t got out home like 1 month and not having a people to understand what you are going through but them advising you is all because of your thinking that you are making issues in everything. I had passed that phase successfully. Now I have turned 23 last month iam fearing that I may go through the same phase or worse this time. I can sense it going to happen and I want to to share it to a friend with whom I have had many conversations about mental health and illness so she is trying to help me now but I know only time will help me and I would be alright if I got a job. Iam praying God that for to you find a person or a relatble solution. I can say only that we have already seen this we can come out from this. Be positive. Stay blessed.
Hi, Sujitha. I hope you’re in a much better place now. I am so glad that you have a friend who understands mental health and gets you. I’m slowly progressing towards feeling better and giving myself all the love and care that I need. You see like a really wonderful person. Thank you for your sweet comment — It really warmed my heart. I’m sending heaps of love and positivity your way. 🙂 x
How are you? I’m not an expert on mental health but happy to hear out.
Hi, Swati! I’m not quite there but I’m better. I’ve been trying to communicate honestly and give myself time to figure life out. This weekend I’m taking a short trip to a seaside town nearby for my birthday — very excited 🙂 Thank you for asking. I hope you’re good, and that life is treating you well. x
How are you? I’m not an expert on mental health but happy to hear out if that helps.
I like the way you write, very poetic and detailed. I wish I had a similar flair in my writing. Anyways since you have mentioned at the end “Tell me about something that makes you happy in the world. Tell me you know this will work out in the grand scheme of things” I was compelled to write something. Let me be very clear, this no advise. I have no clue on what is it like to have a PTSD, nor I know enough about it, probably through your writing I am getting educated. Yet there is one thing which had made my life miserable for a long time, or probably many of us suffer because of it. ‘Anxiety”. Will I pass the exam? Will I get a good college? Will I get a job? Will my kids get everything what they want in life? I think anxiety is central to human experience. Yet I met many people who were chill, happy and were anything but tensed . So I played along. I acted tough, wore a mask of someone who is strong, who does not cry or afraid of failures. Deep down I was worried, scared for majority of my life. We live in society where getting a doctor’s help on a problem like this is a greater taboo than talking about sex, so I started searching solace in spirituality, Buddhism, Meditation. It was also a kind a cool to boast about mediation back then, but I had no idea, how this will solve my anxiety problem. Ten years ago, I got interested in reading. Initially I read many novels and self help books. When I had almost decided to give up on reading, I found an interesting genre of ” psychology”. Reading psychology has been a life changing event. In last few years I have read books only about psychology. But why I liked psychology? It goes back to Buddhist saying “Ignorance is the root of Suffering. Anxiety I felt was the source of suffering. Later in my life, I passed exams, went to very good college, got a nice and high paying job, bought houses, got married, became father, but my anxiety didn’t go. In retrospect, I felt ignorance about anxiety itself was a bigger problem and psychology gave me many answers . More I read more I started seeing light at the end of the tunnel. Sometime back I had read an interesting quote “When I was kid I was afraid of darkness, but later science told me that darkness is nothing but absence of Photon, after that I was never afraid of darkness”. Scientific method is man’s most powerful contribution to the humanity. Psychology I felt was the science of human mind and behavior. It provides systematic tools and experiments to do the root cause analysis of human thinking and behavior. And today at the age of 40 I feel I know why my mind gets anxious and whenever that happens, the same mind automatically flips through the pages where some of the greatest psychologists, who are no less than Einstein or Newton, have very convincingly explained us why our mind creates the anxiety and this reasoning invariably makes me feel better. I am not saying I have eliminated my anxiety but I think I have been able to manage it. It has inspired me to stay clam and relaxed in many tensed situations. My or my loved one’s failures do not bother me much today. Almost always I can tell my mind that its not that your are sad or will remain sad forever but its really the stupid anxiety which is making you miserable for that moment. So let it pass and all will be fine. After forty years I have understood the true meaning of “Time is the Best Healer”.
I can go on writing about what I understood about anxiety and why it happens, but I wish to take a pause here and wish to hear it from you. Mostly it would be for me to get educated on PTSD and also hear from you if knowing the science behind PTSD has helped you manage it in some way? why human body will create such disorder and symptom? I am looking for a cognitive explanation. it like asking why, why, why five times. Will you give a try?.
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